English slumps during Years 9 and 10 can really impact a student's performance when they get in Year 12. Read this post and learn how to stay on top of English so you don't need to play catch up later.
“It’s just Year 10. It doesn’t really matter, I mean, these marks don’t even count towards anything. I’ll do the hard work in Year 12.” – A student who’ll need to organise overcoming an English slump in Years 9 and 10
Ever heard that? Ever said it yourself? Ever thought it, just once, just one little time, and then allowed it to take over your soul? You wouldn’t be the first. Students in both Years 9 and 10 find themselves in an English Slump. Or a Maths Slump. Or a Human Society and Its Environment Slump. At the start of Year 10 you simply cannot see how it is possible to survive the next few years of English without going crazy from School Enforced Torture (commonly referred to as “study”), and so you fall into A Slump.
AN ENGLISH SLUMP IS LIKE LISTENING TO YOUR MUM TALK ABOUT HER TRIP TO THE GROCERY STORE.
See what we did there? We used figurative language. “Identify the imagery in the text, using an example.” Odds are that you’ve been instructed to do this, or something just like this, before. It is even more likely that you will be told again, and again, and again. You may get bored of hearing it (you probably already are). You may even begin to resent it because, like the texts you are studying, you believe that it will never apply to you outside of school. This, ladies and gentlemen, is “English Slump”. It is when you can’t be bothered to do your best, or when you’re not getting the marks you want, or when you think English is boring/pointless/cruel and unusual, and you just don’t care.
Once you’re in an English Slump, it can be difficult to get out of. This is not because of anything specifically to do with the subject, but because trying to break any habit is tricky. You need to be motivated.
If you push yourself, here are some of the ways English is designed to benefit you in life:
Self-confidence – Speaking in front of a group of people. Making an argument and believing in your ability to be persuasive.
Clarity and succinctness – Using as few words as possible to convey the most powerful message. The ability to self-correct. There is no occupation that doesn’t require this ability, and no employer who does not value these skills.
Judgement and independent thought – Arriving at final conclusions based on observations and evidence; the ability to identify cause and explain effect.
Active questioning – Asking why something is the way it is, rather than simply accepting it.
Lateral thinking – Working through problems that may have multiple logical solutions.
This is just the beginning. For more motivation, see our 7 Reasons to Study English blog.
If you’re in an English Slump, it might help to shift your focus. Try not to think of each new English assessment as a MUST-TOP-THE-CLASS kind of thing, instead see it as a continuing opportunity to develop the real-world skills listed above. Try and look for how you might push yourself to apply these skills. This does not increase the amount of work you have to do; rather it makes the amount of work you have to do more worthwhile.
In your middle years of high school, you don’t want to do such an insane amount of work over such a long time that you burn out before you even begin Senior English. Then again, if over this time you try to get by on the absolute minimum required level of work, it will be far more difficult to succeed in your final years as you’ll have a routine to change, and skills to catch up on.
It is about striking a balance, about doing one thing at a time. Don’t radically and suddenly transform the way you work if it is overly taxing or disruptive – chances are it’ll fail like a fad diet and you’ll be back to your old ways before you know it. As a smooth alternative, if you find that you aren’t connecting with English—because you are working too hard or not working hard enough—try some of the following:
On your own terms, in your own time.
Sometimes the texts chosen by your school aren’t that interesting to you.
Using whatever TV show, anime, graphic novel or novel that you personally like, try to identify (either with or without doing any writing) what it is about that text that keeps you watching/reading. What emotions do you feel? Are you weirded out, or do you laugh? Do twists keep you hooked? Think. What choices does the composer make in order to entertain you, and keep you entertained? If you need inspiration, head over to our list of 20 Must-Read Books for Year 7-10 Students!
Turn English into an experiment.
You have lots of time before the HSC to trial different writing and study methods that work for you. If you scored poorly in your last exam, why undertake your next exam in the exact same way? Try an alternative. For example, if you didn’t plan your essay last time, try to plan your essay during your next exam. Take a few minutes to plan your response in quick bullet points at the start of the exam, then follow and cross out that plan as you write. When you get your marks back, you’ll be able to compare how you went using the first approach versus the second approach. You can also try sticking quotes on your bedroom ceiling, organising pop quizzes with your friends, or preparing theme tables to memorise. There are so many methods, tips and tricks that you can try, and now is the time to figure out what works for you!
Create an Evidence Log Book.
It’s time for your assessment and you realise you haven’t read the novel since week four of term. You scramble back through your mountain of untidy notes, finding random quotes in the back of maths books and endless scribbles in your English book where there should be a list of techniques. You regret everything.
This is an all-too-common scenario. When you sit down to write an essay and everything is everywhere, this is a subconscious disincentive for you to do your work, and you end up spending the next three hours scrolling through your insta feed – at least that is well ordered. To make your study easier, develop an evidence log in a separate, dedicated book. When you read a quote you think is great, note it down in that book along with its TECHNIQUE, the IDEA it represents and the EFFECT it creates. By the time you come to study or write your essay, you’ve done half the prep already. Need a refresher on your English Techniques? Read Literary Techniques for Analysing a Written Text.
Fiction from fact.
For a creative writing block, sit with a blank sheet of paper. Write down a list of what you did or what happened yesterday. Select one thing: this is the FACT. For example, “I missed the train”. Now, brainstorm several alternative responses to this. These will be the FICTION. For example, “The train I would have ridden on blows up”, or “I just make the train, but then we go through a tunnel and we never come out the other side”. Select the one you think is most interesting and brainstorm two further responses to that scenario: “We enter the tunnel and come out in the middle of outer-space”, or “A strange voice comes over the intercom and tells us we’ve been taken hostage”. Again, select the one that is most interesting and develop two more responses. Keep structuring your story in this step-by-step way, and soon you’ll have a story. But remember, one step at a time! Don’t worry about writing to some topic/theme/requirement and don’t get ahead of yourself thinking about creating a super sophisticated short story – this exercise is meant to be as fun as possible!
Set goals, work to rewards.
Doing two hours of study or homework? Break it up into two or three blocks, with food/Facebook breaks in between. Discipline yourself and then reward that discipline with what you would have used to procrastinate. One food combo that makes a great reward: dark chocolate and walnuts. Spending Saturday cooped up inside with your head in a theory book? Use your lunch break to get outside and breathe in the fresh air, kick a football around or go for a swim. See this as a reward for your hard work, and then use it as a further motivation to finish your homework.
If you’re in a slump, don’t sit in it. Because when it rains you’ll end up in the mud. Extended metaphor? Check ✔️.
Get ahead of year 10 English with our 2-day Creative writing Bootcamp! Learn More.